The federal government has ruled that in order to meet its demands under Title IX, the law regulating equal access to educational opportunities at colleges and universities, the schools must violate the First Amendment, an activist organization has charged.
“The Department of Justice now interprets Title IX to require colleges and universities to violate the First Amendment,” a report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education confirmed this week.
It cited a recent letter from the agency to the University of New Mexico that “found the university improperly defined sexual harassment. DOJ flatly declared that ‘[u]nwelcome conduct of a sexual nature’ – including ‘verbal conduct’ – is sexual harassment ‘regardless of whether it causes a hostile environment or is quid pro quo.’”
“The Department of Justice has put universities in an impossible position: violate the Constitution or risk losing federal funding,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “The federal government’s push for a national speech code is at odds with decades of legal precedent. University presidents must find the courage to stand up to this federal overreach.”
At issue is how colleges and universities handle complaints of sexual assault and more.
In the demand to the University of New Mexico, the federal government requires controls and punishment for verbal statements to which it objects.
“To comply with Title IX, DOJ states that a college or university ‘carries the responsibility to investigate’ all speech of a sexual nature that someone subjectively finds unwelcome, even if that speech is protected by the First Amendment or an institution’s promises of free speech,” the report said.
The report called the mandate a “shockingly broad conception of sexual harassment” and said it “all but guarantees that colleges and universities nationwide will subject students and faculty to months-long investigations – or worse – for protected speech.”